In 2001 the WHO issued a global recommendation that mothers should exclusively breastfeed their babies up to the age of six months. It is therefore recommended that healthcare professionals promote and offer support to facilitate breastfeeding as part of the WHO/UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative.1
Weaning refers to the introduction of solid feeding and the replacement of milk with solid food as the major nutritional source.2 The WHO recommends that the term weaning should be replaced by the phrase 'complementary feeding' as the former usually refers to stopping breastfeeding.3
In developing countries, malnutrition is a major cause of infant mortality and morbidity, and early weaning may be contributory. For example, other foods may be less nutritious when compared with breast milk. Formula milk may be less readily available and may be mixed with contaminated water which increases the risk of gastrointestinal infections.1
Low weight at 12 months of age in addition to low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in later life.1
Furthermore, in the developing world, another consideration is the return to fertility when breastfeeding is discontinued. The aforementioned factors are far less of an issue in the developed world where formula feeding may be considered out of personal preference or where breastfeeding is not possible.